Monday, September 08, 2008

Plein-air painting... See The Shapes - See TheTones.

I realised quite suddenly, why I had trouble painting ‘plein-air’. It wasn’t the bad weather, or the scenes I chose to paint that put me off outdoor painting, but my inability to see the subject in a painterly fashion. In short, I was looking at the subject itself, and trying to 'copy' it. This was my big mistake.

I was finally told, by a fellow artist, who was better than me; and still is, "When you want to paint a landscape; say a mountain and a river; don't look at the mountain and the river. Look for the shapes and the tones; because that's what you are really painting. Just shapes and tones." He went on. "Look for the shapes of the mountain against the sky; the shape of the river as it wends its way. See the shapes, and then compare the tones one against the other. Later, much later, you add the highlights and details." He was right and it became so much easier, almost overnight.

I look at a scene I want to paint and I squint, breaking it all down into shapes and tones. That's all I can see through half-closed eyes.. Once I map those on the canvas or paper, I can paint away and as already said, add the details and highlights as I go. Of course it isn’t quite that easy; there is a little more to it… Like practice? However, that simplistic approach helps. So if you are having trouble with plein-air painting.

See the shapes; see the tones.

And good luck with you painting ventures.


Unknown said...

Thats a good tip, I must try that one out some time...although I have to say the last couple of weeks here in the Midlands have not been very conducive to Plein Air ;)

John Walker said...

Hi Chrissy,
Thanks for that comment.
I just found it! Where have I been!

Now the weather is better eh?
Hope you get some plein air painting in!